What can a Turbo Trainer do for Me?
With the nights beginning to draw in and the weather starting to turn colder, now is traditionally the time when cyclists turn to their trusty turbo trainers to keep riding throughout the winter in (relative) comfort.
But what is the advantage to using a trainer versus getting out on the road? For starters, turbo trainer sessions are more intense than road riding. This is mainly because there is a constant level of resistance on the rear wheel - meaning you don't get to get away with a cheeky freewheel on a decline which you would take advantage of on the road.
This has the added benefit of meaning sessions don't usually last as long on the turbo as they would on the road - roughly you can attribute 30 minutes of moderate work on a turbo to an hour of steady riding on the road. This makes them more efficient, especially for those with little time.
Turbo sessions are often used to get in base miles over winter; that is long, low resistance efforts to maintain your fitness levels throughout the winter before more intense sessions in spring. Recently though studies have found that short, intense sessions on the turbo can have a similar effect on fitness.
How to Get the Best from Your Turbo Sesh
Your workout on the turbo should depend on what you want to get out of your training. If you want to maintain or improve your endurance then it is a good idea to do longer sessions at a low intensity, making sure you mix up the cadence levels a little throughout to mimic road riding and to avoid hitting a plateau.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) hurts, but will make you faster and stronger for when the sportive and racing season comes around and has added benefits. Using HIIT workouts help to improve cardio strength as well as endurance and will give you more scope for improvement. Interval training is one of the most effective ways to improve and these short - often no longer than 1 hour - sessions will provide amazing results if coupled with low intensity 'recovery rides' in between.
Motivation is often what discourages cyclists from turbo training. Long hours spent staring at a wall or facing into a fan (pro tip: if you're riding a turbo indoors, buy a fan. You're welcome.) can be soul destroying, but there are plenty of ways to stay focused.
Simple things like watching the Tour de France highlights or other bike races whilst on the turbo can be a welcome distraction, or catching up on your TV on Netflix. These are great methods of distracting yourself from the workout - especially if you are doing long base mile rides with little variation.
Alternatively, there are plenty of training videos on the web that are worth looking into. These videos - popular ones include Sufferfest and Ride-Fit - incorporate visual elements and even storylines to the workout so you are engaged with the session. These are often HIIT sessions lasting between 30 and 90+ minutes, each workout catering to different goals such as climbing or sprinting.